PROLOGUE: From the HIGHERGROUND: While the bold and the beautiful hide in their bunkers and Donald J. Trump is not doing it, WE THE PEOPLE, hereby declare all imposed U.S. sanctions as nil and void. Any bankster, factory-owner, trader, transporter etc. who still abides by these illegal sanctions and does not sell, transport, deliver etc. urgently required medical supplies and food to the people in the countries targeted by the machinations of U.S. hegemony will be held likewise accountable for crimes against humanity.

Sickening US Sanctions on Iran

Iranian man wearing rare facemask.

By  - 11. March 2020

At a time of global crisis as seen with the coronavirus epidemic, it is heartening to witness compassion and solidarity that unites all human beings.

Russia, which has so far been relatively unscathed from the disease, is reportedly sending 50,000 test kits to Iran for detecting the virus. The Islamic Republic has recorded over 300 deaths so far and there are fears of many more fatalities to come over the next few weeks as the flu-like disease spreads to all provinces.

Meanwhile, China – where the outbreak originated in December – is sending thousands of ventilators, respirators and other equipment to Italy, which has become the worst-affected country in Europe by the disease.

In stark contrast to these international humanitarian actions, the United States continues to impose crippling economic sanctions on Iran under its policy of “maximum pressure”.

Iran’s parliamentary speaker Ali Larijani this week called on the rest of the world to demand the lifting of US sanctions because they are hampering the fight against Covid-19 in Iran.

Washington claims that its sanctions on Iran do not specifically target medicines and humanitarian supplies to the country. But that claim is cynical sophistry. Even the US-based Human Rights Watch organization – usually uncritical of American foreign policy – has stated that sanctions are hitting Iran’s public health services.

A ruling by the United Nations’ International Court of Justice in October 2018 also found that US sanctions were unlawful, especially because they prevent Iran from importing vital humanitarian supplies.

Iranian women wearing protective masks to prevent contracting a coronavirus walk at Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran February 20, 2020.

Iranian women wearing protective masks - mostly from China - to prevent contracting a coronavirus walk at Grand Bazaar in Tehran, Iran February 20, 2020. © REUTERS / WANA NEWS AGENCY

Two weeks ago, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared that his country would offer humanitarian assistance to Iran over the coronavirus crisis if Tehran made a request. Pompeo said the US “stands with the people of Iran”.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has subsequently rejected Washington’s “offer”, dismissing it as a disingenuous propaganda stunt. He said that if Washington really was concerned for the people of Iran then it would immediately revoke its economic sanctions that are restricting every industrial sector, including banking and shipping.

Any fair-minded person would agree with President Rouhani. What is charitable about throttling a country and then offering superficial respite? It’s tantamount to waterboarding a prisoner and then letting him breathe for a few seconds before continuing the torture.

The Trump administration re-imposed crippling US sanctions on Iran in May 2018 after the Americans decided to dump the international nuclear accord. As the ICJ ruling above makes clear, those sanctions are unlawful. Again, let that fact sink in: US policy towards Iran is unlawful.

The American economic stranglehold has slashed Iran’s global oil exports, plunging the country’s economy into turmoil. Even before the coronavirus epidemic emerged, Iranians have been deprived of life-saving medicines because of failing import-purchasing power and skyrocketing inflation. Untold numbers of patients have died from lack of drugs for cancer treatment and other terminal illnesses – all because of the US blockade on the country.

But from the callous American point of view, this is all going to plan as part of “maximum pressure” to incite regime change. Professed concern for the Iranian people by President Trump and his administration is simply sickening.

Unfortunately, the rest of the world can become inured to the barbarity of economic sanctions inflicted on Iran by the US. The slow, daily death toll of people perishing from chronic lack of medicines can become invisible due to the seeming abstract nature of these deaths.

However, with the coronavirus now gripping Iran it suddenly becomes clear again just how monstrous US policy towards that country is. Whatever American propaganda fantasies might claim about Iran, there is absolutely no justification for kicking sick innocent people when they are down.

Washington calls Iran the “world’s number one terror state”. What does that make the US when it is choking a nation that is trying to fight off a disease that may kill thousands?

At the end of the day, what comes around goes around. There are growing fears that the Covid-19 virus is set to explode in the US, mainly because of years of underfunding of public health services. American governments have for years pandered to the rich elite, while the majority of its citizens have become mired in poverty and deprivation. The US authorities are nowhere near prepared to deal with the impending humanitarian crisis, according to American medics and nurses.

The heartlessness of successive US governments towards Iran – and in particular under the current Trump administration – is heartlessness shown towards all human beings, including ordinary American citizens. And vile US policy will reap what it has sown.

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Sanctions Are an Act of War

The sanctions can kill. Those imposed by the United States are backed up by the U.S. Treasury which is able to block cash transfers going through the dollar denominated international banking system. Banks that do not comply with America’s imposed rules can themselves be sanctioned, meaning that U.S. sanctions are de facto globally applicable, even if foreign banks and governments do not agree with the policies that drive them. It is well documented how sanctions that have an impact on the importation of medicines have killed thousands of Iranians, Yemeni and other people.

The Iraqi position also immediately produced presidential threats and tweets about ‘sanctions like they have never seen,’ with the implication that the U.S. was more than willing to wreck the Iraqi economy if it did not get its way.

SANCTIONS KILL !

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Punishing the World With Sanctions

Trump rules by the mood of the day - and many suffer. © Photo: Flickr

By Philip Giraldi (*) - August 15, 2019

Sanctions are economic warfare, pure and simple. As an alternative to a direct military attack on a country that is deemed to be misbehaving they are certainly preferable, but no one should be under any illusions regarding what they actually represent. They are war by other means and they are also illegal unless authorized by a supra-national authority like the United Nations Security Council, which was set up after World War II to create a framework that inter alia would enable putting pressure on a rogue regime without going to war. At least that was the idea, but the sanctions regimes recently put in place unilaterally and without any international authority by the United States have had a remarkable tendency to escalate several conflicts rather than providing the type of pressure that would lead to some kind of agreement.

The most dangerous bit of theater involving sanctions initiated by the Trump administration continues to focus on Iran. Last week, the White House elevated its extreme pressure on the Iranians by engaging in a completely irrational sanctioning of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. The sanctions will have no effect whatsoever and they completely contradict Donald Trump’s repeated assertion that he is seeking diplomacy to resolving the conflict with Iran. One doesn’t accomplish that by sanctioning the opposition’s Foreign Minister. Also, the Iranians have received the message loud and clear that the threats coming from Washington have nothing to do with nuclear programs. The White House began its sanctions regime over a year ago when it withdrew from the JCPOA and they have been steadily increasing since that time even though Iran has continued to be fully compliant with the agreement. Recently, the US took the unprecedented step of sanctioning the entire Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is part of the nation’s military.

American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made clear that the sanctions on Iran are intended to cause real pain, which, in fact, they have succeeded in doing. Pompeo and his accomplice in crime National Security Advisor John Bolton believe that enough pressure will motivate the starving people to rise up in the streets and overthrow the government, an unlikely prospect as the American hostility has in fact increased popular support for the regime.

To be sure, ordinary people in Iran have found that they cannot obtain medicine and some types of food are in short supply but they are not about to rebel. The sanctioning in May of Iranian oil exports has only been partially effective but it has made the economy shrink, with workers losing jobs. The sanctions have also led to tit-for-tat seizures of oil and gas tankers, starting with the British interception of a ship carrying Iranian oil to Syria in early July.

Another bizarre escalation in sanctions that has taken place lately relates to the Skripal case in Britain. On August 2nd, Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing a package of new sanctions against Moscow over the alleged poisoning of former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in England in March 2018. The order “prohibit[s] any United States bank from making any loan or providing any credit… except for loans or credits for the purpose of purchasing food or other agricultural commodities or products.” The ban also includes “the extension of any loan or financial or technical assistance… by international financial institutions,” meaning that international lenders will also be punished if they fail to follow Washington’s lead.

The sanctions were imposed under the authority provided by the US Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act adopted in 1991, which imposes penalties for use of chemical weapons. Novichok, which was reportedly used on the Skripals, is a chemical weapon developed in the labs of the Soviet Union, though a number of states are believed to currently have supplies of the agent in their arsenals. Russia can appeal the sanctions with 90 days by providing “reliable assurance” that it will not again use chemical weapons.

Russia has strenuously denied any role in the attack on the Skripals and the evidence that has so far been produced to substantiate the Kremlin’s involvement has been less than convincing. An initial package of US-imposed sanctions against Russia that includes the export of sensitive technologies and some financial services was implemented in August 2018.

Venezuela is also under the sanctions gun and is a perfect example how sanctions can escalate into something more punitive, leading incrementally to an actual state of war. Last week Washington expanded its sanctions regime, which is already causing starvation in parts of Venezuela, to include what amounts to a complete economic embargo directed against the Maduro regime that is being enforced by a naval blockade.

The Venezuelan government announced last Wednesday that the United States Navy had seized a cargo ship bound for Venezuela while it was transiting the Panama Canal. According to a government spokesman, the ship’s cargo was soy cakes intended for the production of food. As one of Washington’s raisons d’etre for imposing sanctions on Caracas was that government incompetence was starving the Venezuelan people, the move to aggravate that starvation would appear to be somewhat capricious and revealing of the fact that the White House could care less about what happens to the Venezuelan civilians who are caught up in the conflict.

Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez condemned the move as “serious aggression,” and accused the Trump Administration of trying to impede Venezuela’s basic right to import food to feed its people.

One of the most pernicious aspects of the sanctions regimes that the United States is imposing is that they are global. When Washington puts someone on its sanctions list, other countries that do not comply with the demands being made are also subject to punishment, referred to as secondary sanctions. The sanctions on Iran’s oil exports, for example, are being globally enforced with some few exceptions, and any country that buys Iranian oil will be punished by being denied access to the US financial and banking system. That is a serious penalty as most international trade and business transactions go through the dollar denominated SWIFT banking network.

Finally, nothing illustrates the absurdity of the sanctions mania as a recent report that President Trump had sent his official hostage negotiator Robert O’Brien to Stockholm to obtain freedom for an American rap musician ASAP Rocky who was in jail after having gotten into a fight with some local boys. The Trumpster did not actually know the lad, but he was vouched for by the likes of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West, both of whom have had nice things to say about the president. The negotiator was instructed to tell Sweden that if they did not release Rocky there would be “negative consequences.” Who can doubt that the consequences would undoubtedly have included sanctions?

It has reached the point where the only country that likes the United States is Israel, which is locked into a similar cycle of incessant aggression. To be sure Donald Trump’s rhetoric is part of the problem, but the indiscriminate, illegal and immoral use of sanctions, which punish whole nations for the presumed sins of those nations’ leaders, is a major contributing factor. And the real irony is that even though sanctions cause pain, they are ineffective. Cuba has been under sanctions, technically and embargo, since 1960 and its ruling regime has not collapsed, and there is no chance that Venezuela, Iran or Russia’s government will go away at any time soon either. In fact, real change would be more likely if Washington were to sit down at a negotiating table with countries that it considers enemies and work to find solutions to common concerns. But that is not likely to happen with the current White House line-up, and equally distant with a Democratic Party obsessed with the “Russian threat” and other fables employed to explain its own failings.

(*) Author:

Philip Giraldi - Ph.D., Executive Director of the Council for the National Interest.

===

US imperialism exploits coronavirus as a weapon of war

U.S. imperialism is causing death worldwide.

By Bill Van Auken - 20 March 2020

In a speech delivered Thursday announcing that the number of confirmed coronavirus infections worldwide had risen to 200,000, the director of the World Health Organization, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, stated that “the only way we can defeat this pandemic, as we have always been saying, is through solidarity. Solidarity, solidarity, solidarity ... We’re one human race, and that suffices actually. This is an invisible enemy against humanity.”

The solidarity of humanity across the planet is not merely a noble ideal, but a life-and-death necessity in combatting a deadly virus that threatens to infect hundreds of millions of people as its spreads to every corner of the globe. This ideal, however, stands in stark opposition to the reality of a world capitalist society riven by unprecedented levels of social inequality and characterized by the pursuit of geo-strategic interests through the means of murderous violence.

Alongside the “invisible enemy against humanity”, the coronavirus, there stands another quite visible one, world imperialism.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in the increasingly desperate conditions confronting Iran and its population of nearly 83 million. The country has the third highest number of fatalities after Italy and China, and nowhere is the mortality rate greater, as the number of infections continues to rise sharply each day.

Medics treat a patient infected with the new coronavirus, at a hospital in Tehran, Iran. (AP Photo/Mohammad Ghadamali)

Iran’s Health Ministry spokesman Kianush Jahanpur announced Thursday that 149 people had died over the previous 24 hours, bringing the death toll from the virus to 1,284. During the same period, another 1,046 cases of infection were reported, raising the total number to 18,407. Both numbers are believed to be serious underestimations of the ravages of the disease.

“Based on our information, every 10 minutes one person dies from the coronavirus and some 50 people become infected with the virus every hour in Iran,” the spokesman said.

Rather than human solidarity, Washington’s response to this crisis has been a deliberate attempt to intensify it at the cost of countless lives of Iranian working people. The pandemic, rather than being seen as an enemy to be eradicated in every country, is viewed by the White House, the Pentagon and the CIA as a new weapon of war that must be integrated into imperialist planning.

This is the inescapable conclusion from the Trump administration’s imposition Thursday of yet another round of punishing economic sanctions against Iran, targeting companies based in the United Arab Emirates that are accused of buying petroleum from the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC). This follows by only two days, another set of sanctions announced by Washington’s bully-boy Secretary of State Mike Pompeo against nine separate entities in China, Hong Kong and South Africa. The blacklisted companies were charged with engaging in “significant transactions” involving Iranian petrochemicals.

Casting the pandemic in nakedly aggressive and xenophobic terms, Pompeo told a State Department press conference, “The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice.”

In the same breath, he claimed that Washington was prepared to carry out “humanitarian efforts” to “help the Iranian people stay healthy.”

The level of lies and hypocrisy is breathtaking, even by the Trump administration’s standards. US sanctions, which have blacklisted the country’s central bank, make it impossible for Tehran to buy basic medicines and medical supplies supposedly allowed under the “maximum pressure” regime. This has condemned tens of thousands to early and preventable deaths well before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. Now, according to one estimate by an Iranian physician, the country’s death toll from COVID-19 could reach as high as 3.5 million.

This human suffering is not collateral damage from Washington’s “maximum pressure” sanctions regime, it is its direct purpose. Through brutal collective punishment, hunger and the spread of disease, US imperialism seeks to foment regime change in Tehran with the aim of eliminating a regional obstacle to its hegemony over the oil-rich Persian Gulf while, in turn, preparing for war with China. The coronavirus pandemic is seen as yet one more weapon in the US arsenal.

As the January 3 drone missile assassination of Gen. Qassem Suleimani at Baghdad’s international airport made clear, US imperialism is prepared to carry out a direct war of aggression to achieve its aims. With the same order authorizing the illegal murder of Suleimani, Trump authorized the Pentagon to carry out bombing raids against Iranian ships, air defense systems and other targets, paving the way to a catastrophic military confrontation.

The level of desperation of Iran’s bourgeois-clerical government as it confronts the spread of the coronavirus is expressed in its appeal to the International Monetary Fund (IMF), with which Tehran has not had relations for more than four decades, for a $5 billion emergency loan to pay for urgently needed medical supplies.

With Washington holding the deciding vote within the IMF, the loan request will likely be rejected. A similar request from Venezuela, another oil-rich country that has faced a tightening noose of “maximum pressure” sanctions as it confronts the spread of the coronavirus, was turned down. The IMF board cynically claimed it could not release the money because it did not have “clarity on recognition” of the government of President Nicolas Maduro. As if the US puppet Juan Guaidó and the small band of CIA-backed, right-wing conspirators who surround him could organize efforts to contain and mitigate the disease! Meanwhile, Washington’s right-wing allies in Latin America have rejected any collaboration with Venezuela in combating the spread of the coronavirus, again with the hope of using countless thousands of deaths to topple the existing government and impose a US puppet regime.

The effects of these criminal policies will not be confined to the targeted countries. The coronavirus has already spread from Iran into much of the Middle East and South Asia. The Pentagon has even been forced to lock down occupation troops in Afghanistan for fear that their return home could spread the virus.

In its March 17, 2020 statement “How to fight the COVID-19 pandemic: A program of action for the working class”, the National Committee of the Socialist Equality Party (US) raised the demand to “End all sanctions and trade war measures.” It stated: “The response of Iran, Venezuela and other countries is being crippled by economic sanctions that prevent them from acquiring basic medical equipment. Trade war measures implemented by the United States and European countries must be halted. The coronavirus is a global disease that requires a globally coordinated response.”

The worldwide coronavirus pandemic has exposed once again in the most clear-cut manner that the most basic interests of the working class and the very survival of humanity are incompatible with imperialism. The solidarity required to defeat this disease and save the lives of millions around the planet can be forged only through the unification of the working class across national boundaries in a common fight for socialist internationalism.

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US Weaponizes COVID-19 to Cripple Iran

The US accuses Iran of purposefully killing its own citizens while offering no relief.

US Weaponizes COVID-19 to Cripple Iran

The coronavirus outbreak in Iran has reached epic proportions - Photo: HAIDAR HAMDANI/Getty Images

By Jasper Hamann - 19. 

Rabat – The coronavirus outbreak in Iran has reached epic proportions, with a recent study warning millions could die. The crisis has prompted several countries to demand a temporary respite from US sanctions intended to cripple the Iranian economy.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic, unilateral US sanctions on Iran had created a deep recession and shortages of foreign goods.

The sanctions were implemented after the 2018 US withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, intended to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons.

The International Atomic Energy Agency stated that Iran was in full compliance with the agreement, yet the US still introduced sanctions to apply “maximum pressure” on Iran.

In practice, this “maximum pressure” meant crippling poverty for the people of Iran even as its government continued to comply with the nuclear agreement.

Human Rights Watch revealed that even before the coronavirus pandemic the sanctions were directly impacting the health of Iranian citizens.

“On several occasions, US officials have indicated that the pain US sanctions are causing for ordinary Iranians is intentional, part of a strategy to compel Iranian citizens to demand their autocratic government to ‘change behavior’– a recipe for collective punishment that infringes on Iranians’ economic rights,” Human Rights Watch reported.

Starving a population in order to force them to oust their government would be something that is usually subtle and cloaked in rhetoric and propaganda, but the US has been unapologetic about its campaign.

“Things are much worse for the Iranian people, and we are convinced that will lead the Iranian people to rise up and change the behavior of the regime,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in early 2019.

These sanctions against Iran appear to have a siege-mentality intended to “starve them out.”

Besieging a city and depriving it of resources in order to break the population is a war crime under international humanitarian law, or the “laws of war.”

When done to an entire country, however, such strategies are portrayed by the media as a light-handed measure that can be freely used as a foreign policy tool by economically powerful nations.

Economic sanctions were already a brutal punishment on the weakest populations in the target country. Now that COVID-19 is creating an unprecedented health-crisis in Iran, calling these sanctions cruel is putting it lightly, according to Salon’s reporting. Even as the US is struggling with its own Coronavirus crisis, for which its president takes “no responsibility,”it presents Iran’s ineffective and opaque fight against COVID-19 as a wholesale and purposeful murdering of Iranians by its government.

In his March 17 remarks on the matter, while announcing empty gestures that will provide no relief to the thousands of infected Iranians, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The Wuhan virus is a killer and the Iranian regime is an accomplice.” while announcing empty gestures that will provide no relief to the thousands of infected Iranians.

In return for these meaningless gestures, Pompeo had the unmitigated gall to state “in the spirit of humanitarian gestures the United States also continues to call on Iran to immediate release all wrongfully detained Americans being held inside of that country.”

As the US buckles under the consequences of its own non-transparent and ineffective early measures against the virus, it intends to let Iranians starve and die for their government’s similar ineptitude. Reporting by the Intercept and others reveal that the US intends to wreak untold death and misery upon the people of Iran by continuing sanctions in the face of a humanitarian disaster.

The US still hopes that those Iranians who survive the current Coronavirus crisis will blame and overthrow their own government, until that happens the US appears committed to their inhumane siege of sickly Iran.

Author:

Jasper Hamann

Jasper Hamann

===

Sanctions: Unilateral coercive measures for regime change in Venezuela *

Photo Credit: TeleSUR

In this piece, written especially for the NCW website, Nino Pagliccia discusses the dominant use of the word “sanctions”. He argues that the criminal actions  being committed under this label is nothing more than a euphemism and using it hides the fact that the so-called sanctions are a crime, an act of war, illegal, break all established international laws, and are inhuman, be it in Venezuela or anywhere else.

By Nino Pagliccia - NCW - 17. March 2020
____________________________________________

In discussing the issue of “sanctions” there are two main points that need to be made. One is the use of the correct terminology when referring to the government actions that the US, Canada and the EU take in order to achieve regime change. The second is of course the impact that those actions have.

The blame of imposing “sanctions” falls fully on the US government as it currently applies them to 39 countries! However, throughout, when I refer to the US “sanctions”, particularly in the Venezuelan context, I also mean to include Canada as well as the EU as willing accomplices and accountable perpetrators.

First of all I would like to correct the terminology that is used. We often are coopted into the use of the language of the empire but we have to be alerted to the fact that empires write history based on their “vision” of the world as conquerors.

When the empire and the colonial powers to which we have referred above put words in our mouths, they also aim to put thoughts in our minds. This will certainly mislead our perception of the facts.

For example, it is almost inevitable to see references to Cuba in the corporate media as “communist-run Cuba”. But there is never a reference to the US as “capitalist-run United States”. While both statements are correct, the former needs to be emphasised to imply something “wrong”, the latter is ignored as the acceptable norm.

Another example is the use of “regime” to imply an authoritarian or illegitimate government, whereas the term “democracies” is used to describe governments that are close to the neoliberal dominant ideology.

Our first revolutionary act is to be aware and resist any attempt at brainwashing and weakening of our anti-imperialist outlook.

The dominant use of the word “sanctions” for the criminal actions that are being committed under that label is a euphemism. It hides the fact that the so-called sanctions are a crime, are an act of war, are illegal, break all established international laws, and are inhuman, be it in Venezuela or anywhere else.

This is the dictionary meaning of sanctions: “provisions of a law enacting a penalty for disobedience or a reward for obedience”.

“Penalty”! Penalty for what? For not submitting? For resisting domination? Where is the court case? Who is the judge? Where is the evidence that justifies the “penalty”?

“Disobedience”! “Obedience”! To whom? The US? Canada? The EU? The so-called Lima Group?

In the context of US and other powers application of the terminology is simply an outrageous abuse of power. Only the sovereign people can be the judges of their own governments and will “penalise or reward” using their democratic norms. Everybody else should stay out of it.

The use of this language in the geopolitical context is simply old colonial language. It is inconceivable in the 21st century! As it has been inconceivable for the last 500 years of colonialism in this continent.

That can only be interpreted as a demand for submission and surrendering of sovereignty.

If we accept that, we are accepting submission and domination by the dominant powers. Because that’s what “sanctions” imply.

What they call “sanctions” we call them by their proper name: Unilateral coercive measures.

They are “unilateral” because they do not imply a relationship with another as in bilateral or multilateral relations. It is a one-sided decision. There is no negotiation between two or more parties before an action is taken. The bully unilaterally strikes the victim. To give it an appearance of legality both the US and the neo-colonial countries have created their own laws as tools of aggression against the imaginary enemy. They have created enemies to justify their laws. To further justify the untenable position the bully dominant powers join in agreements like in the cases of the US-Canada agreement or the “Lima Group” to ostracise the victim, Venezuela.

And they apply “coercive measures” of their choice to force individuals, governments and institutions to follow their diktat. None of them are the real enemies, except in their own ideologically confused imagination.

More abusively, their laws are applied extraterritorially. And this is against any norm of international relations. Just recently, the US has applied extraterritorial unilateral coercive measures against the Russian oil company Rosneft for buying and shipping Venezuelan oil. The US has also imposed fines against a Swiss company associated with Rosneft.

We have witnessed for almost 60 years one of the longest unilateral coercive measures against any country in the case of the blockade of Cuba. Now the imperial history is repeated in Venezuela and other countries like Nicaragua. US coercive measures have been imposed on Nicaragua police force over ‘violent repression’.

A few days ago we read that the “US House of Representatives pushed through a Nicaragua regime-change bill with zero opposition”. This is a bill sponsored by hardliners that ramps up US economic warfare and regime-change measures against Nicaragua’s elected government.

All seems to indicate that Latin America is still the victim of the US Monroe Doctrine.

Referring specifically to Venezuela. What is the economic impact of US coercive measures on Venezuela?

The US has imposed an oil blockade that has blocked the purchase of oil from Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA. It has also confiscated Venezuela’s US subsidiary CITGO, worth $8 billion. This is a huge blow for Venezuela, which received 90% of government revenue from the oil industry.

The U.S. government has also frozen $5.5 billion of Venezuelan funds in international accounts in at least 50 banks and financial institutions.

All sources of international borrowing options like the IMF and World Bank are also out of reach due to the financial blockade. Even if Venezuela could borrow money abroad, the United States has long blocked international trade by threatening “sanctions” on foreign companies for doing business with the country.

What is the human cost to Venezuelans, the ultimate victims?

***

According to a recent report by authors Weisbrot and Sachs of the Washington-based Center for Economic and Policy Research, more than 300,000 people are estimated to be at risk because of lack of access to medicines or treatment. That includes 16,000 people who need dialysis, 16,000 cancer patients, and roughly 80,000 people with HIV.

More dramatically, the same authors, in their 2019 paper titled “Economic sanctions as collective punishment: The case of Venezuela”, also claim that “sanctions” have inflicted […] very serious harm to human life and health, including an estimated more than 40,000 deaths from 2017-2018. But the US has imposed escalating measures since 2015.

The authors conclude that “sanctions reduced the public’s caloric intake, increased disease and mortality (for both adults and infants), and displaced millions of Venezuelans who fled the country as a result of the worsening economic depression and hyperinflation.”

Further, about 15%-20% of Venezuelans have limited access to drinking water in their homes, because the government cannot acquire new foreign-built parts to fix broken pumps and pipes. Water is shipped by trucks weekly to needy communities. But the blockade, and the lack of parts for vehicles, is also impacting the number of water trucks that can be kept running. In some cases the fleet of trucks has been reduced by 75% over the last 3-4 years, to now only a handful of trucks.

The situation is getting worse with the increasing economic and financial blockade that the “sanctions” enforce reaching a limit that borders cruelty and even criminality. In the current circumstances Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab denounced a few days ago that coercive and unilateral measures imposed by the United States prevent the purchase of drugs and supplies to confront the health impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

When foreign minister Jorge Arreaza called on the International Criminal Court last February to open an investigation into coercive measures imposed on Venezuela by the Trump administration he said, “With punishing ‘sanctions’, the Trump administration has given “a death sentence to tens of thousands of Venezuelans per year.”

He also said, “We are convinced that the consequences of the unilateral measures constitute crimes against humanity, against the civilian population.” And the US has violated “international law and human rights”.

In conclusion, we agree and we will continue accusing the empire and all neo-colonial powers.

  • “Sanctions” are unilateral coercive measures.
  • “Sanctions” kill.
  • “Sanctions” are a crime.
  • “Sanctions” are an act of war.
  • “Sanctions” are a tool of hybrid war on Venezuela and other sovereign countries.

Socialism is NOT hurting Venezuela, the so-called sanctions are.

In fact, if it were not for Venezuela’s determination to implement socialism, Venezuelans would suffer tremendously more. Venezuelans are protected by the policies of the Nicolas Maduro government and the Bolivarian Revolution.

*****

*Based on a speech delivered at a rally against “sanctions” delivered in Vancouver, March 13, 2020

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Pompeo threatens family of ICC staff with consequences while bashing probe of US war crimes

U.S. Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo delivers keynote remarks at the Munich Security Conference in Munich, Germany, on February 15, 2020. [State Department Photo by Ron Przysucha/ Public Domain]

By  - 18. 

Amnesty International on Wednesday rebuked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo over new comments bashing the International Criminal Court and threatening court staff—and their family members—investigating alleged war crimes committed by United States forces in Afghanistan.

“Threats against family members of ICC staff who are seeking justice is a new low, even for this administration,” said Daniel Balson, Amnesty International USA’s advocacy director.

Balson’s comments came a day a press briefing in which Pompeo told reporters the ICC is “a so-called court which is revealing itself to be a nakedly political body.”

In a decision applauded by human rights advocates, the ICC announced earlier this month that the probe—which includes alleged crimes committed at CIA black sites in Poland, Lithuania, and Romania—could proceed after the court’s Pre-Trial Chamber previously stopped its advancement. The prospect of that probe bristled the Trump administration, which carried out what had previously appeared to be a successful bullying attempt to quash the investigation.

With the investigation now having a green light, Pompeo renewed his vocal disdain for the court, calling it “an embarrassment.”

“As I said the last time I stood before you, we oppose any effort by the ICC to exercise jurisdiction over U.S. personnel,” Pompeo told reporters. “We will not tolerate its inappropriate and unjust attempts to investigate or prosecute Americans.”

Pompeo suggested retaliatory actions would be in store.

“It has recently come to my attention that the chef de cabinet to the prosecutor, Sam Shoamanesh, and the head of jurisdiction, complementarity, and cooperation division, Phakiso Mochochoko, are helping drive ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda’s effort to use this court to investigate Americans,” the secretary of state said. “I’m examining this information now and considering what the United States’ next steps ought to be with respect to these individuals and all those who are putting Americans at risk.”

“We want to identify those responsible for this partisan investigation and their family members who may want to travel to the United States or engage in activity that’s inconsistent with making sure we protect Americans,” he continued.

Amnesty’s Balson, in his statement, said the Trump administration was making clear it had no interest in working towards justice.

“Instead of pursuing the torturers, the U.S. is condemning the investigators, and even their families,” said Balson.

And that sends a dangerous message.

“To refer to the International Criminal Court, a body which for years has worked on addressing the most heinous of crimes, including genocide, war crimes, and crimes against humanity, as ‘an embarrassment’ is the real embarrassment,” said Balson.

“Lack of political will to investigate crimes and prosecute those responsible has impeded the ICC’s vital work and Secretary Pompeo’s remarks have only exacerbated this,” he added. “Perpetrators the world over now have a clear message from the United States: they too may demand impunity when their nationals are accused of the gravest of crimes.”

The fact that Pompeo is now hovering the possibility of retaliation for the investigation over family of ICC staff “is an ominous move,” said Balson.

“If there remained any doubt that the Trump administration’s hostility towards the court is fundamentally punitive and callous in nature,” he added, “these doubts have now been dispelled.”